By Jerrell Richardson
Oakland Raiders (1-11)
Head Coach: Tony Sparano
Players To Watch: Derek Carr, Darren McFadden, Charles Woodson, Sio Moore
Last week the 49ers were playing for bragging rights in their division. This week, there are again playing for bragging rights, but this time it’s for the Bay Area. While Oakland is in the midst of a season to forget, San Francisco is one or two more losses from joining them, making this game of the upmost importance for the road team. If the 49ers can win, they not only prove that they are still the best team in Northern California, but more importantly it will keep San Francisco’s bleak playoff hopes alive. A loss, though, will come close to putting the final nail in the 49er coffin, and if they are to miss the playoffs, it would be a fitting to have on their resume a loss to arguably the worst team in the league.
When San Francisco Has The Ball: Advantage 49ers
The 49ers offense has not played well as of late, but it can’t be ignored that it was the Seattle Seahawks and their top ranked defense that made San Francisco look so bad a week ago. This week, the opposition is a bit more favorable as the Raider defense, while no pushover, does not match up well against San Francisco, who are their most effective when using the run to set up the pass.
Frank Gore and the 49er running game has been inconsistent this season. Part of this has been the play calling and injuries suffered by the offensive line, yet still, as a team, they are averaging 114.8 yards per game, which is slightly above the league average. They might be better than most, but a far cry from the dominant running team they have been the past two seasons. However, the Raiders are ranked near the bottom of the NFL (27th), stopping the run, and as a team, San Francisco should be able to easily crack the 100 yard mark. Linebacker Sio Moore leads the Raiders in tackle and will need to have a big game if Oakland wants to slow down the 49ers’ running attack.
The Raider pass defense has been respectable this season. Oakland comes into this game allowing about 230 yards per game, which is 9thth in the league. Leading their secondary is veteran Charles Woodson, who continues to be a force. The free safety is leading the Raiders in interceptions, tied for the lead in passes defended and is second in tackles. Helping him out will be cornerback D.J. Hayden, who will try to blanket the 49ers’ 25th ranked passing offense. While Colin Kaepernick and his receivers were a no-show a week ago, expect Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree to both bounce back this week with a strong performance.
When Oakland Has the Ball: Advantage 49ersREAD MORE: COVID Reopening Day: San Francisco Businesses Thankful To Have Survived Pandemic
While a lot of it can be explained, the bottom line is that the Raiders offense is not good. Rookie quarterback Derek Carr has had the normal ups and downs of a player in his first NFL season, and it doesn’t help that he has no running game to help him out.
Carr has thrown 14 touchdowns this season to 11 interceptions while completing 59.3% of his passes. His only real consistent targets are James Jones or running back Darren McFadden, which helps explain his lack of productivity. The lack of viable threats to throw to does not bode well for Oakland, which is going against the 49ers 3rd ranked pass defense. Eric Reid has quarterbacked a secondary that with Perrish Cox, Antonie Bethea and Chris Culliver has been as tough as any to throw against, and should be able to keep up their stellar play against Carr and the Raider aerial attack.
Oakland’s 26th ranked passing offense has struggled, but their running game has been worse. Even with the talented Darren McFadden at their disposal, Oakland is the worst running team in the league. With Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman out, the 49ers run defense has struggled at times, allowing over 100 yards the past two weeks, but should be able to shore up most of their mistakes. They are still the eighth best team in the league stopping the run by the numbers, and should have no problems keeping the Raiders as a team under 100 yards. Chris Borland will have his name called often in this game, as he and Michael Wilhoite will be primary responsible for keeping McFadden under wraps.
On paper, there is no way the Raiders should beat the 49ers, but Oakland actually has something to get them excited for heading into this matchup, making them far more dangerous than their record indicates. While their season has been over, they can at least play the role of spoiler, which would give them something positive to take away from 2014.
San Francisco though, is still very much playing for their playoff lives, and as they can’t afford to lose this, or any other game this season. Therefore, with so much on the line there is little chance that the 49ers overlook their crosstown rival this week. This is the exact opponent that the 49ers needed after the Thanksgiving meltdown as they are in desperate need of wins, and who better than the Oakland Raiders to help the 49ers salvage their season?
For more 49ers news and updates, visit 49ers Central.MORE NEWS: COVID Reopening: San Franciscans Hopeful as City Drops Pandemic Restrictions
Jerrell Richardson is a Bay Area native who due to a college career at San Diego State University has grown an appreciation for all things sports related in California. His heart will always remain in San Francisco though where he currently resides and covers everything from the San Francisco 49ers and Giants to the San Jose Sharks and California Bears Baseball team. Jerrell is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.